Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Number One Rule of Writing

Trust yourself to put that first word on the page.
Trust yourself.

That is all.

What, were you expecting it to be something far more elaborate and detailed? Perhaps something rigid and defined?

Well, there certainly are a lot of rules for writing, and they are all very useful rules to keep in mind. Things like: use proper grammar; avoid contractions in formal writing; avoid redundant adverbs and eliminate weak verb-adverb pairs; use 'said' as your default for speech tags; do not have your characters constantly say each other's names; have a defined beginning, middle, and end; raise the stakes for your characters and put them in jeopardy...

The list goes on and on and on. Rules about POV, rules about style, rules, rules, rules, rules.

The only hard and fast rule of writing is that there are as many rules as there are writers.

What do I mean by that? I mean that every writer out there is going to have their own idea of what makes writing good. Writing rules are subjective. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a sucker for the rules. I believe there is such a thing as good writing and bad writing. However, which is which really depends on who you ask. There is a sort of 'canon' idea of what makes for good writing, but people work outside of that all the time and still have success.  Bad writing exists, but not everyone agrees on what makes writing bad.

The commonly agreed upon reasons for bad writing are: weak plot, weak and flat characters, inconsistent style, poor grammar, and similar things. But again, people still disagree as to what is what.

So, here you are, trying to navigate the waters of being a writer. You will be given conflicting advice. How do you know which is right, which is the way to go?

This is where trusting yourself comes in. If you can't trust yourself, who can you trust? Even if you follow all the supposed rules that you have read about, if you don't trust yourself, your writing will be weak and shaky. Do you really need to do something that breaks a rule, because you think it will make your story more powerful? Break that sucker.

Trust yourself.

Because you will never be as good at being your favorite author as that author is. But you can most definitely be the best at being yourself. And to do that, you will have to trust yourself.

It is not easy. I still struggle with it every day. It is especially difficult when you are editing something, and when a self-imposed deadline looms over your head like a Sword of Damocles, threatening a sense of failure.

I try to remind myself that there is no failure as long as I keep plugging away at my work, as long as I do not give up, as long as I do my best... long as I trust myself.

So keep the rules in mind--because rules are useful and will make your writing stronger--but remember to trust yourself, even if that means stepping outside of the rules.

That is the number one rule of writing.

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